Elevated expression of hTERT is associated with dysplastic cell transformation during human oral carcinogenesis in situ.Clin Cancer Res. 2001 Oct; 7(10):3079-86.CC
Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein complex composed of the catalytic protein subunit (human telomerase reverse transcriptase or hTERT) and the RNA template. This enzyme activity is a necessary and rate-limiting step of cellular immortalization and could provide a unique marker of aberrant cells, which may selectively be targeted. The current study was undertaken to quantitatively determine the degree of telomerase activation during multistage oral carcinogenesis using paraffin-embedded tissue samples.
hTERT expression level was quantitatively compared between normal and cancerous oral tissues by real-time reverse-transcription-PCR (RT-PCR). Also, the presence of hTERT transcript in individual cells was surveyed in the biopsy specimens with varying degrees of histopathology by in situ RT-PCR.
Low level of hTERT amplification was detected by real-time RT-PCR in most (11/13) normal human oral mucosa. hTERT expression was also detected in the majority (11/12) of squamous cell carcinoma tissues, and the level was significantly (P < 0.05) elevated, on the average, by a factor >6.9. By in situ RT-PCR, hTERT expression was not noted in normal epithelium (0/10) nor in mild dysplasia (0/7) but was detected in moderate dysplasia (4/5) and in those tissues with a higher grade of histopathology: severe dysplasia (3/3) and invasive carcinoma (4/4).
These results indicate that enhanced expression of telomerase activity occurs early during human oral carcinogenesis and support the critical role of telomerase in the development of human oral cancer.